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Williams, P. (2000). ‘The Central Phobic Position: A New Formulation of The Free Association Method’ By André Green. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 81(5):1045-1060.

(2000). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 81(5):1045-1060

‘The Central Phobic Position: A New Formulation of The Free Association Method’ By André Green

Review by:
Paul Williams


André Green's paper was published in Part 3 (IJP, 81: 429-51), and made available some weeks earlier at no charge for internet discussants and web visitors ( This extended, densely argued and detailed clinical and theoretical paper must be read in full if Green's argument (and the paper's multiple internal linkages) are to be grasped, and if the ensuing, sometimes conflicted discussion is to make proper sense. This review touches upon some of the principal themes addressed by Green, but not all of them, and then only briefly. Similarly, the internet discussion is summarised. Those interested in reading the paper and discussion can also download both from the IJP website.

The abstract to Green's paper refers to a quality of associative behaviour observed in some borderline patients, and its role in maintaining a central defensive position, discernible in the use of the analyst, and a particular functioning of the mind that the author terms phobic. Through a detailed clinical account of associative themes in a particular patient, Green delineates his concept of the ‘central phobic position’, and in so doing, the theoretical underpinning of his approach to psychoanalysis. His conceptualisation implies a new formulation of the free association method. By constructing an analytic space in which free association and psychoanalytic listening are possible, the analyst can voice and link previously catastrophic ideas, quite unknown to the patient's consciousness, to help the patient to create meaning and obtain relief from previously dominant but unknown terrors.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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